Here’s the one thing that annoys me the most about being in the entertainment business and as a total film and TV nerd: people forget it’s all subjective. Your taste in music, books, TV, movies, sports, all of it. No one has to like the same thing you do. And you do not have to like the same thing someone else does. Land of the free, yo.
I view skincare and makeup much the same way. What works for me, might not work for you. The choices my friends make, they don’t need to be the choices I have to make. But I am always open to advice and/or suggestions. So keep that in mind as we proceed with this post, friends. These are the products I am using and either love or just kinda like. I will always be honest. I personally treat reviews on Sephora the same way I do reviews on Rotten Tomatoes – it’s all relative. I encourage you to have the same mindset. However, I do still want to share because one, sharing is caring. And two, I don’t know a tremendous amount of other women who care to put such an obsessive amount of time into this. So take full advantage of my emotional issues, ladies!
Because I am almost 40, a fact with which I am not dealing well, and have no kids – therefore extra disposable income – I choose to spend a fair amount on skincare. I am fully aware not everyone is in this same situation; Sunday Riley is not always an option when you have summer camp to pay for. However, very few things I use actually cost a lot. And if they do, I make sure it’s something that, via one way or another such as limited use or rotation, will last a significant amount of time.
I spent the last couple of years exploring the Korean skincare craze. There are a lot of amazing products out there in this category and most all come at reasonable prices. I am getting away from it for two reasons. One, I am trying to go with more (not all, but more) all natural products and two, I am now shopping cruelty free brands only. This doesn’t exclude all K-beauty, as South Korea is phasing out animal testing, but some are too ambiguous to take the chance.
An additional fact, which affects a LOT of well-known brands in the U.S., if a company wants so sell in China, they’re required by the government to test on animals. Just something to keep in mind if you feel any sort of way about this.
You will see a lot of samples show up in both this and future posts. Two of my girlfriends and I attended Indie Beauty Expo Dallas a few weeks ago. If there is actually a heaven, it’s a beauty product trade show. We had a wonderful time and all three purchased the VIP ticket, which came with a goody bag loaded with product. I couldn’t believe how much was in it, a collective value significantly more than the amount we paid. I will not be finished trying out these products for quite some time, so I will keep you updated as I continue to explore my beloved stash.
With all that being said. Let’s click to it.
Cleanser: good ol’ H20. I stopped using face wash in the a.m. about two years ago. You don’t need it. The only exception to this is if I use a retinol or acid serum the night before and am going outside before taking a shower. For example, I used retinol last night and didn’t take a shower before running errands this morning, so I cleansed with micellar water then did my normal day routine.
Toner: the one you see everywhere right now, Thayers Premium Witch Hazel Toner Facial Mist. You can find this most anywhere: Target, the grocery store, the drugstore, Amazon, etc. This will link you to the official website so you can explore all options. I currently use the Lavender scent and love it. It doesn’t actually smell like Lavender to me, it just has a clean, refreshing smell.
Serum: Scandic Beauty Ung Line Smoothing Serum. This was a sample we received at IBE Dallas. And I absolutely love it. It’s very light, which, to me, is perfect for daytime. I didn’t get the chance to talk much with Scandic at the show, just very briefly right as we were leaving. I wish I had, because they were lovely (they’re from Sweden, so I wouldn’t expect less). I definitely plan to purchase this one and would really like to try their moisturizer at some point as well.
Before I purchase an actual bottle of Ung, however, I just ordered Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen Brighten + Film Vitamin C Serum that I will use first. This was suggested to me by my most favorite Sephora employee in the world, Domingo. He has been a fixture at the NorthPark location for well over 10 years and I love to get his opinion on most anything.
I often wait for specials or sales on pricier products, because I do love a bargain. The Dr. Gross website had 20% off over Memorial Day weekend so I jumped on it. I liked the sample I had of this serum a lot, but I’ll keep you posted as I use it reguarly.
Moisturizer: Acure Brilliantly Brightening Day Cream. I grabbed this on a whim at Target a couple of weeks ago and wish I could tell you if it has had any effect. Maybe it has? I’m not sure. However, I am not looking for a daytime moisturizer to rock my world since SPF and makeup go right on top of it. So having said that, this one is perfectly fine, is readily available and has an attractive price point.
However, the moisturizer I’m head over heels for is Osty Hydrating Radiance Cream. Also a sample from IBE, we did get to speak with the creator, Wendy, for quite awhile. We loved her. And I love this moisturizer. It’s lightweight, scentless and just overall lovely. I am rationing out my sample as if it’s the last batch she ever made, but promise I will buy a jar at some point in the very near future (I try not to buy until I’m close to running out of what I have). We also got a sample of her serum, which I haven’t allowed myself to use yet. Cause I don’t want it to be gone.
SPF: Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun SPF 45. I can’t seem to find a definitive answer on whether or not Missha tests on animals, if anyone happens to know – please comment here or email me, as I really do like this. It’s light and doesn’t interfere with my makeup (we will get into that on another day).
There are two schools of thought on SPF. Some say it’s okay to go with what’s in your moisturizer or makeup, but most say you should use a separate one. As someone with sunspots (thanks, California!), that’s what I’ve started doing. Better safe than sorry, kids.
Makeup remover: Right now I use Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water. I am not linking this product, as Garnier sells in China. I am using what I have then moving on. Open to suggestions.
Cleanser. Same story here, for the most part I am currently using Garnier Skinactive Soothing Milk Face Wash with Rose Water. It’s great if you’re looking for a budget friendly drugstore brand, but it’s no longer something I’ll purchase in the future.
Howev, I am so excited I can’t stand it to finally get to this brand. I had many favorites (as you can already see) at IBE Dallas and Svati Organics was without a doubt near the top. The founder, Lindsay, was delightful and beyond helpful. So much so, I purchased a serum on the spot. I couldn’t not buy from her. We also received a wonderful box of samples in our goody bag, which included the Purify Facial Cleanser. This has been my first experience using a cleansing oil, but it won’t be the last. When I re-purchase my serum (details on it below), I am for sure adding a bottle of this.
The best part about Svati and Lindsay is a genuine belief in empowering women, therefore a portion of proceeds go to Homes of Hope Orphanages in India to help send girls to school. And we love that.
Toner: still use my trusty Thayers mentioned above. Cause it’s the best.
Serums/oils: Here I have a rotation, as two are retinol/acids and I don’t care to use those each and every night, so I break them up with an all-natural product. I’ve used many serums over the last year or two, but these are now my go-to trifecta.
Let me preface by saying this: I refused to try Sunday Riley for awhile. Simply because, as a devout follower of the Forever35 podcast and Facebook group, I kinda sorta got tired of hearing about it. I truly believed there was no friggin’ way any single brand of products were that good.
Girl. I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
The girlfriend with whom I roomed on our weekend trip to Austin a few weeks ago had a bag full of Sunday Riley, Drunk Elephant, and Caudalie. Her skincare game was entirely on point; it was like digging into the holy grail. Bless her heart, I asked her about 125 questions after nosing through all her shit. Having expressed my personal skincare concerns – fine lines, uneven skin-tone, and those damn sunspots – she told me I must try Sunday Riley’s Luna Sleeping Night Oil.
It took me a couple of weeks, but when Sephora had a special that included a 7-day trial of Sunday Riley Good Genes with any purchase of $25 or more, I decided on the smaller bottle of Luna Oil.
I am not lying when I say I used it one time and am officially sold for the rest of my life. I woke up the next morning, looked in the mirror and said out loud, “holy fuck is that my skin?” It looked that good. And that was one use. I used it again last night with the same results. Color me intrigued to find out what happens over time.
The three years I was in LA, I lived in Studio City, a place I miss every single day. Gosh, I loved many things about it (and still do). I had this great little spa I went to, I can’t seem to find if it still exists or not and unfortunately don’t even remember the name it’s been so long. One of the best treatments I often had done there was a quick and easy $25 lactic acid peel. It was great to do right before a special event or trip, because it always left my skin glowing. Given how stupid I went over Luna Oil and my previous knowledge of and love for lactic acid, I was anxious to use Good Genes.
You’ll read and hear a lot that it smells funky, and it does. It really, really does. But the results I used to get from the aforementioned peel when I was only 28 I now have in my own cabinet at home. My little sample packets will last for awhile since I only have Good Genes in the rotation every three days. But make no mistake, I will buy a Real Bottle when those are gone. I get it now.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t want to use retinol/acids every night. Some people do and that’s awesome if it works for them. I don’t even know what my skin would do, but I have occasional psoriasis, so no need to even attempt irritation. Therefore, I rotate with Svati’s Renew Hydrating Facial Serum, the item I purchased at IBE Dallas per Lindsay’s recommendation. It provides some of the same benefits as Luna and Good Genes, but with all natural ingredients.
I just started this rotation about a week ago, but am having amazing results. Order as follows, one per night: Luna, Renew, Good Genes, Renew, then repeat.
Eye cream/gel: Majestic Pure Blue Eye Gel. And as I looked up this link for you, I discovered they’re cruelty free. I originally assumed they weren’t, so this just made my day. I always veered towards eye creams out of habit, but this popped up as a suggestion on Amazon so I went for it. Especially at this price point. I know a lot of women who don’t use an eye product. Stop that. Stop that right now.
Moisturizer: for awhile now I’ve used just your basic CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. I recommend this for anyone looking for a reliable, affordable super hydrating drugstore brand. Unfortunately they are owned by a pharmaceutical company known to test on animals. So we’re done once I’m through with my current tub.
I recently got a sample of Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream from Sephora and loved it so much I wanted to stick my entire body in a tub of it. So there’s that.
Masks: I have dry skin, so I try to do a hydrating mask 2-3 times a week. I’m not as consistent about as I should be, but I would hope the rest of my routine slightly makes up for it.
Alas, here is the part where I get super sad. I have to give up my favorite skincare brand on the market: Fresh. I have been an extremely loyal customer for many years now and it’s the ONE store at NorthPark in which they know me by name. But they’re not cruelty free. Given their other quality brand standards, I hope one day they will be.
You’re about to see a grown ass woman cry over jar of what basically looks like goop. Cause Rose Face Mask is my number one girl and I am going to miss her. Luckily I purchased a jar right before I made my No Animal Testing Decision, so I’ll still have some for awhile. If cruelty free is not in your search criteria (I do not judge either way, I still eat meat after all), and you choose to splurge on one single skincare item, make it this one. You will not be disappointed.
Overnight masks are a game-changer. I use a sheet mask or traditional mask either in the bath or when I remember to give myself enough time (not that 10-20 minutes is really that much more time, I mean really). But otherwise, overnight masks are my Great Discovery of 2018. And this one is wonderful. COSRX is a K-beauty powerhouse (their toner is fantastic, too), doesn’t sell in mainland China and is cruelty free. This Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Overnight Mask is absurdly inexpensive for how great it is.
Holy face balls. Are y’all still here? I knew this was going to be long, but not over 2,500 words and almost three hours long. Clearly one of my most favorite things to talk about, expect a lot more skincare coverage in the future. I have many more products from IBE Dallas to try out, you don’t even know. And I consistently take full advantage of the knowledge and samples from Sephora. I know it can seem overwhelming and the employees often annoying, but they’re there to help and yes, you can always get samples.
Everyone’s skin is different, everyone’s preferences are different. But knowing this is the only skin I will have in this particular lifetime, I would like to take care of it. So should you.